Okay, hopefully you are excited about Back to School.  I have actually already started setting up my room, as my district starts teacher inservice on August 5th this year.  Getting into my room really helped get me excited about back to school.  I can't wait to read everyone's favorite BTS activities!

Getting Organized

I take the first 2-3 days to really work on learning students names and establishing some basic routines.  (Okay, routines take a lot longer than that, but I get a good start on things that need to be in place fast!)  Here are some ideas for you for your first days of school:

Family Information Cards & Student Survey 

These are great things to leave for morning work on the first day.  In upper grades, most kids can complete at least some of the information independently, and teachers can see who doesn't know their phone number!

Supply Sort

I always forget this at the beginning of the year, but every student walks through the door and tries to hand the teacher all of their supplies.  Get boxes or other containers ready so that students can sort supplies without asking you.

Getting Over the Nerves

Everyone is nervous on the first day of school - both students and teachers.  I think it is really important to begin creating your relationship on the first day.

Read a Book

Some teachers may chose to start their read aloud, but you could also select a short
book that you really love.  Don't worry about it being about the first day of school - show your personality!  Select a book that connects to you, your family, your interests, etc.  I plan to read the book "Sparky" by Jenny Offill because it reminds me of my daughter,

Morning Meetings

If you plan to hold class meetings, start the first day!  It will help you to begin establishing your class expectations and routines.  On the first day, you could have students share something about their summer, what they want to learn this year, etc.  Class meetings will help establish your class community.


Honestly, I usually run out of time on the first day.  There is just so much organizing and hustle and bustle that I can't remember things - and neither can your students.  I like to send home an icebreaker as "homework" on the first day.  My favorite icebreaker is one I created, called "Guess Who?"  You only need copies of two pages, plus glue, scissors, and a pencil.   I prefer to have students complete it at home so other students do not see their answers.  Students complete the activity, naming their favorite colors, hobby, food, etc.

Over the next few days, I randomly select a few completed forms and read the answers.  The class has to try to guess who it is before I run out of clues.  Students absolutely love this activity - it is high engagement, even if the class thinks they know each other.  I usually give a small prize (eraser, pencil, etc.) to students who stump the class.  Once I read a Guess Who? form, I hang it on the hallway bulletin board - perfect for Back to School night!

What is your best back to school activity?

Usually I am really excited to go back to school, but this year the summer really flew by!  (I am pretty sure getting up at 6AM to take my daughter to cross country practice had something to do with that.....)  I spent a lot of time reflecting on what worked and didn't work in my classroom.  For my BTS resources, I will highlight what I felt went really well last year.

Teaching Social Studies

My brother and I are both social studies teachers at heart, and it just kills me to see how often social studies gets put off due to time constraints.  When it does get taught, often we tell students to "use the book."  Honestly, that just doesn't work.  Let me explain why.
Most kids don't know how to find things in a text.

There.  I said it.

As some of you know, I have been helping my son struggle through vision therapy this past year.  Experts estimate that at least 10% of students struggle with an undiagnosed vision problem.  For students like my son, their eyes cannot track.  At all.  Seriously.  Imagine him trying to read a question at the end of the chapter and looking back through the multipage lesson for the answer.

Yep, that isn't happening.

Then think about students like my daughter,  Dream student.  Perfect behavior, loves overachieving, always gets her work done, but hates social studies.  (Brings me to tears, you have no idea.)  Unless you make social studies interactive, she is in la-la-land.

Using Interactive Notebooks

I resisted the interactive notebook.foldables bandwagon for a long time.  I thought, "Who has time to get these kids to cut and glue?!!!"  I kept seeing blog after blog talk about these interactive notebooks, and I really wondered what kind of utopia people worked in.

Until the overachieving daughter came home and said she was bombing the end of course practice exams for civics.  And the exam was in a week.

At that point I figured I should really try something new, because her friend wasn't coming either and wanted to join our "class in a week."  I began designing foldables specifically tailored to the EOC content.  Now, my girl hates to cut and glue, but she was actually remembering the material.  (They both scored in the top score range, I am proud to say.)

With that success, I decided to try the foldables with my 5th grade kids.  It was May, so I figured I had nothing to lose - and I could see how well they worked.

They LOVED it.  I mean, 10 out of 10.  I couldn't believe it.  This was not the easiest class to manage, and even my complainers took notes without complaining!

Integrating Social Studies and Language Arts

Florida History

With my test run working so well, I designed foldables that scaffolded the social studies text for 5th grade, and a friend wanted them for 3rd.  The students loved them!  It did take a few weeks to train students on cutting and pasting, but really it was worth the time.

Using my foldables, I was easily able to divide the lessons and have student groups become experts
on specific topics.  The guiding questions help lower readers break down the text.  After a chapter or two, I was able to make the social studies foldables an independent activity or work with a group while the class worked on the lesson.

Students loved the INBs so much that they commented that they wouldn't get to do them with the next teacher!  Students were weighing their notebooks and asking if they could keep them.  It really wasn't til the last marking period that I realized how much ownership students took over their notebooks.
American History

I now have year-long bundles of social studies INBs for 3rd grade North America, 4th grade Florida History, and 5th grade American History.  I have a 7th grade unit that is written to support the Florida civics end of course exam.  The 1st semester of 8th grade American History is also available, and the second semester will be ready by January.  I will be working on 6th grade throughout the year.

Teaching Students About Themselves

Another popular lesson I did was my flap book on learning styles, multiple intelligences, and right & left brain.  I used this during the first week of school, and I had students complete one section per day.  We discussed what it meant to be a visual learner vs. a kinesthetic or auditory learner or
what the different intelligences meant.  Every time I mentioned study skills, we would talk about a good strategy for the different types of learners.

Included in the activity is a sort summary describing each type of learner or multiple intelligence.  For younger students, I simply copy the information and they can cut and paste it in their booklet.  For older students, teachers could probably read the information.

Multiple Intelligences

This activity also really helped me see the personality of my class.  I had a lot of kinesthetic learners last year, so I knew that I had to integrate a lot of movement!

I hope you enjoy reading everyone's linkies and get some great ideas for this year!

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